Walking in the Footsteps of Giants in Ireland


IMG_9289 - Copy RESIZEDThe sky had been playing games with us all day, constantly morphing from ominous grey to dazzling blue. It was December and this is Northern Ireland, so I can’t say that I expected perfect conditions. All I was merely hoping for was a few clear hours, as I had just dragged my wife clear across Ireland to visit this place. Rounding a bend shielded by cliffs, I saw it. Jutting out into the Irish Sea is a site where time stands still, where our stories from childhood seem possible, and where legend and reality harmoniously converge.

The Giant’s Causeway is a fairy tale brought to life. According to legend, Finn MacCool, the greatest of Irish giants, challenged his Scottish counterpart, Benandonner, to a duel. Finn then set enormous steeping stones across the sea so Benandonner could face the challenge. Finn fled as soon he saw the size of the Scottish giant and hid, dressed as a baby. Benandonner arrived at Finn’s home only to see a monstrous infant. Assuming the child was Finn’s and imagining the size of father, Benandonner raced back home, ripping up the causeway as he went. Sitting at the edge of the Giant’s Causeway today, staring at the horizon and knowing that directly across is Scotland, it is impossible not to envision the great colossus tearing the bridge down while in retreat.
The Giant’s Causeway is in fact a rock formation of the most unique kind. Created by volcanic eruptions, the Giant’s Causeway is a massive collection of columns made of basalt, an igneous rock. These columns were formed when lava leached its way through fissures in the surface and slowly cooled and cracked over time. The result was a place of ethereal, almost other worldly, beauty.

While visiting the causeway, the surroundings will astonish as much as the column’s, themselves. Set amongst the ruggedness of the Irish coast, the Giant’s Causeway provides stunning views of the jagged cliffs extending into the sea. The sound and spray of the water is also intoxicating. Here the roar of the waves echoes as it crashes into the columns; white caps sent sailing in a hypnotic ballet. The Giant’s Causeway breaks the tide in such a way that sitting on one of the columns near the sea, a visitor is treated to a veritable symphony of oceanic sounds; nature at its rawest and most elegant.

The Giant’s Causeway also allows us to relive some of the most marvelous parts of childhood. Explore without reservation. The Giant’s Causeway is nature’s playground. The columns rise and bend and twist creating the jungle gym we all wished we could have had. Run on them, sit on them, climb on them, skip from one to the next, become that 11-year-old that never let a little water or dirt stop them. Let your imagination run wild. Climb the cliffs overlooking the causeway. Stare down and retrace the remnants, imagining the bridge before the giant. Go to the Pipe Organ, and Giant’s Boot, formations connected with the causeway legend. It is these that bring Finn MacCool to life. Surrender completely to the rich folklore and see it through child’s eyes.

The Giant’s Causeway is that rare place that enthralls all ages. So come, lose yourself, and sense the majesty of nature and magic of storytelling.

About the Author: Bill Hoversen is a history teacher originally from Chicago, Illinois. A late-bloomer, Bill did not really begin travelling abroad until his mid-twenties after spending several months teaching in Vietnam. Bill currently teaches and lives in the Hungarian capitol of Budapest.

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One response to “Walking in the Footsteps of Giants in Ireland

  1. Thank you for the history lesson. I was there years ago and would love to go back but I never heard the legend. You have inspired me to go back and maybe explore some more.

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